There’s a little not-super-well-kept secret that a sect of cloistered nuns in Madrid sells clandestine cookies to the public.
In 2019, while living in Spain, I got wind of the secret and decided to check it out for myself.
With that knowledge in mind, I began my quest to find these secret cookies of Madrid.
Mostly everyone enjoys a nice cookie every now and then. I’d say most people find good cookies hard to resist at the best of times. While I’m not particularly fond of sweets, even I can appreciate a freshly baked batch of cookies.
Somehow the appeal of such covert cookies is magnified even more when you know they are being baked by reclusive nuns.
The mythical treats are somewhat of a legend in Madrid spoken about in hushed tones along the streets. These are no ordinary cookies.
The Convento de las Carboneras is a convent of cloistered nuns of the Monasterio del Corpus Christi. They received their name after an image of the Virgin Mary was found in a coal yard.
In Spanish, carbonería means coal shop and carbón means charcoal.
The blessed image remains on display in the monastery today.
The building itself dates back to 1605 and was declared a site of cultural interest in 1981.
Cloistered nuns are no longer found outside the confines of their monastery or convent. Between AD 500 and 1200, all nuns were cloistered.
Cloister comes from the Latin word claustrum (singular) or claustra (plural) which means to close or shut in.
Cloisters were affordable spaces for monks to engage in recreational activities. Over time, the secure areas became a place all clergy members could use, regardless of gender. The nuns reject the distractions of the outside world, turning inward to a life of prayer, sacrifice, reflection, charity, and a strict dedication to silence.
As you can imagine, a secluded life can become more complex when interrupted by the ever-changing world. To earn a living, the silent nuns began selling traditional Spanish cookies.
Through the cookie-selling business, the world has gained limited access to experience their secluded lives. By limited access, I mean VERY limited access.
Not only can you not speak to the nuns, but you also won’t even see them.
This fundraiser started as a special offering for the neighborhood and surrounding areas before the secret got out and it became somewhat of an unofficial treasure hunt in Madrid.
So you may be wondering how to find these precious cookies.
HOW TO FIND THE SECRET NUN COOKIES
The convent & monastery are easy to travel to via public transportation. The closest metro stops are La Latina (line 5) or Sol (accessible using Lines 1, 2, or 3). You can also get there by train or by bus.
Finding the Monasterio del Corpus Christi is easier than ever with modern navigation apps. Nevertheless, I still managed to get lost while trying to find it, haha. From the outside, the building blends in rather well. You can search for the door with a sign that says, “Venta de Dulces,” which roughly translates to “Sale of Sweets.”
Once inside, locate the bell labeled, “Monjas,” meaning “Nuns.”
In Spanish, you can politely ask if they are selling cookies.
Once let inside, follow signs for “Torno” or the turnstile which you will find at the end of the hallway.
HOW TO ORDER SECRET COOKIES IN MADRID
The cookies are sold either by weight: either a half kilogram (about 1.1 pounds) or a full kilogram (about 2.2 pounds).
Once you have selected the cookies you would like to order and the quantity you want, announce it clearly and wait for the nuns to work their cookie magic.
Here is the video of me receiving my cookies!
When the cookies are ready, they will appear on a Lazy Susan turnstile (the “torno”).
Remember, you will never see a single nun during this process. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice your Spanish free of any perplexed looks, just know that you will not receive any verbal answers to your questions or comments. The nuns have taken a vow of silence.
PAYING FOR YOUR SECRET COOKIES
I recommend paying for the cookies in cash with exact change to make life easier for the nuns.
I didn’t have exact change so I placed a larger bill on the turnstile, spun it to them, and they spun it back to me with the appropriate amount of change along with the cookies that I ordered. 😄
The process is definitely pretty peculiar, but it ensures you have the correct order and that you won’t walk away before paying.
HOW MUCH DO THE COOKIES COST?
I ordered my secret cookies in the summer of 2019.
At the time, the prices for the secret cookies were approximately 10 Euros for a 1/2 kilo or 20 Euros for 1 kilogram of cookies.
Now that more than 3 years have passed, it is possible the prices have changed. Naturally, the prices of these things are subject to change.
ENJOY YOUR SECRET COOKIES!
There are many different types of cookies you can choose from.
I tasted nevaditos and naranjines.
I really enjoyed the cookies I bought. I had the pleasure of trying them twice (two different cookies) during my time living in Spain.
The boxes are labeled so you can see the two I tried in the photos above.
If you’ve ordered secret cookies while in Madrid, what did you think of yours?